by Robin Young
I've tried. Lord knows I've tried. But it's no good. I just can't stand modern wrestling. I don't like the athletes, the fans, the promoters, the angles, the storylines, the announcers (Oh, I'm ready to rumble!), or the bumps. Even the timekeepers get on my nerves. The managers don't annoy me for the simple reason that there aren't any. Boy, do I miss the Grand Wizard. And while I'm waxing nostalgic, whatever happened to that ringside staple, the "physician-in-attendance"? I'd welcome it if the "great" Dr. Bernhart Schwartz would throw Monsol's powder in my eyes, thereby sparing me the torture of seeing what's going on in the ring! In the interest of conservation, I can sum up my critique of the "Big Three" thusly:
As far as I'm concerned, that's all the ink they deserve. I have nothing more to add. Which of course is my dilemma. I'm all out of topics. Or so I thought. For a while now, I had planned to write Bill Walkowitz and ask about his tapes just to see what he had. I did. He sent me a list numbering hundreds of matches! I got a custom tape as well as Nostalgia Tape #5. The custom tape I will discuss in the near future. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it from beginning to end.
It begins with two squashes. The "squashee" is none other than a very young Shawn Michaels. These matches are fun to watch simply because the "Heartbreak Kid" is almost unrecognizable. No sign of his super bump taking, or what passes as his charisma. At this point, he was just a jobber. No more. And furthermore, he shaved his chest!
Next up is the title change in Japan involving Bob Backlund and Antonio Inoki. This is an excellent match, and it's interesting from a historical standpoint, as Backlund plays heel, and plays it well. Both these men were impressive.
The next match involved a man I've waited a quarter of a century to see. I had always wanted to witness the phenomenon that was Jackie Fargo. Thanks to Bill W., that wish has been granted. And if that weren't enough, his opponent here is none other than that paragon of good sportsmanship and fairplay, the Sheik. Fargo reminded me of Ray Stevens, as he possessed a flashy blond appearance and a kinetic in-ring style laced with charsima to spare. In direct contrast to the last match, this was not a thing of beauty. The combatants tore into each other, and in very short order, the proverbial fur flew and the claret flowed. In the course of their mutural blood letting, the madman from Syria let loose one of his fireballs in the direction of Mr. Fargo, Esq. I will give away no more of the plot. I promise.
Next on the "card" is a match involving another legend, namely Mr. Wrestling II and Mr. Les Thornton. These two put on a real mat wrestling clinic. Wrestling II, or Johnny "Rubberman" Walker to you know-it-alls, was at this point in his thirtieth year as a pro. He looked as though he could easily "guzzle" any of today's hotshots. And Les Thornton, for his part, lived up to this sobriquet, "The man of 1,000 holds." And if all this weren't enough, who should be doing color for the match, but a very crisp and cogent Gorilla Monsoon and his little buddy Jimmy Hart! Altogether a great match.
Now from the Mid-Atlantic area, Ricky Steamboat vs. Paul Jones. This was a typcal Steamboat performance, high energy, fast moves, good old fashioned excitement. The picture resolution isn't great on this one, but it's very watchable.
Next in line is a real treat. An interview with Pat Patterson and his "mouthpiece" The Grand Wizard, conducted by none other than your favorite and mine, the great Bruno Sammartino. This is fun stuff, and the kind of "mic work" that is so lacking in today's "whoop ass" world.
We then see a bout between Mr. Patterson and a very young Ted DiBiase. These two could "work." Patterson was a master "heel" and bumptaker, and his "Neo-Ray Stevens" style is very much in evidence here. Another fine example of better then than now!
From here, we travel to the Pacific Northwest for a 1980 Battle Royal involving a very young Luke and Butch, Roddy Piper, Doink's dad--"Tough" Tony Borne, Rick Martel, several wrestlers unknown to me, and a recalcitrant "Playboy" Buddy Rose, who preferred to avoid the ring altogether.
The next treat is a trailer/montage of Austin Idol, a wrester I have only limited knowledge of. The man had it! Tremendous look and charisma. Amazing to me that he wasn't a player during the expansion years!
This tape finally winds down with a pastiche of goodies, a Crusher Blackwell vs. "Bam Bam" Gordy brawlfest that ends with a run-in from the Freebirds, an interview with Ivan and Nikita Koloff that I found amusing, and Michael Hayes holding forth from his AWA days. There are some wonderful moments on this tape, and I sincerely hope that Bill Walkowitz favors us with many more volumes to come. Enjoy.
By the way, I am looking for matches of "Crusher" Verdu. Let me know.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Bill M. Walkowitz's Wrestling Nostalgia Tape #5 can be ordered for $20. Write Bill at Northgate Apartments, Apt 2D2, Rochester, NH 03867.]